Faction Focus: T’au Empire

The T’au faction focus article for 9th ed 40k is here! This comes via the Warhammer-community page.

With the new rules for Overwatch, it would be easy to think that the T’au Empire has lost one of its most popular advantages. Well, in today’s Faction Focus, with the help of one of Commander Puretide’s foremost students, Brian Pullen, we can happily inform you that this is far from the case. Let’s crack on and find out why.

Who Are They?

When the Imperium first encountered the T’au Empire some 6,000 years before the Era Indomitus, they were little more than warring tribes of savages. Then the Ethereals came – regal and imperious beings whose mere presence seemed to possess an intrinsic power to unite the T’au people. With their nascent civilization working together as one ‘for the Greater Good’, the T’au Empire developed at an astonishing rate. Divided into five castes – Fire (military), Air (aviation and interstellar travel), Water (diplomacy and administration), Earth (scientific research and construction) and Ethereal (leadership and strategy) – all working seamlessly towards a common goal, the T’au Empire flourished exponentially. 

Despite having no psykers or methods for reliably* traversing the warp, they have since launched five great Spheres of Expansion to colonise, annex or (should negotiations fail) conquer new worlds in every direction from their original sept world of T’au. Though many races have aggressively opposed the T’au Empire’s rapid expansions, there are many species – such as the Kroot and Vespid – who have found common cause with the ideals of the Greater Good, and readily fight alongside the Fire caste warriors as auxiliaries.

How They Play in the New Edition

For this bit, we’ve awoken Brian Pullen from cryogenic stasis to bring us the teachings of Commander Puretide in person. Since thawing out, Brian’s been busy playtesting and even winning a recent Grand Tournament, stateside. Just don’t tell Commander O’Shaserra, or she may enter next year’s event to prove her supremacy, and that would hardly be fair on all of you.

Brian: The T’au Empire will benefit from a huge number of improvements in the new edition, representing significant changes to how the army plays. The T’au specialise in using small units, such as Drones, that can spread out and control the board. In many mission formats, these small units would punish the T’au Empire force by easily giving away victory points. However, it’s possible to select secondary objectives for the new missions that emphasise board control over the destruction of enemy units, allowing the T’au to really lean into this specialism.

One of the most painful things that T’au face in the current edition are units that inflict multiple penalties to hit rolls, such as -2 or -3 to hit. Armies like Chaos and Aeldari have long been tough match-ups for the T’au when they utilised these tactics. In the new edition, there is a cap, so no units can suffer a modifier of more than -1 to hit, so you can still make your firepower count.

The largest challenge for the T’au Empire in the new edition is the change to the Fly keyword. It no longer offers units the ability to Fall Back and shoot, which means you need to put extra effort into screening enemy charges and preventing your critical shooting units from being engaged in combat. Thankfully, screening is about to become much more effective. You can also look at new kinds of screening units, like Kroot, since you can now escape even when you’re surrounded.

The other way to prevent units from charging you is with the threat of Overwatch. The T’au are still the undisputed masters here. Unlike other armies that need to use a Stratagem to Overwatch, the entire T’au army can do so for free, and they can use their updated For the Greater Good ability** to offer support fire just like they currently do! Enemies will still need to think twice about charging a T’au Empire gun line.

The T’au play best as a highly mobile army that uses many small units to take control of the battlefield. These can be small Drone squads or even the fleet-footed Kroot. Behind these multi-layered screens, you’ll want trusted Battlesuits like Riptides, Broadsides and Ghostkeels. Vehicles like Hammerheads and Sky Rays are also even better with their freedom to move and fire at full effectiveness. The T’au Empire is now faster than ever, which will be a big advantage in the new edition.

Key Units

Thanks, Brian! Here are a selection of T’au Empire units that we reckon are set to be (or remain) strong choices in the new edition, along with a few hints and tips for using them.

T’au Commanders (Various)

These guys are pure awesomeness, and every T’au Empire Detachment is going to want one! Commanders are very flexible and can basically be built to order with their many wargear and weapon options. For further flexibility, they also have the Master of War ability, letting you choose between Kauyon and Mont’ka styles of warfare depending on their foe. In fact, you may want to consider spending some Command points to field an additional Detachment to include a second Commander (as the T’au can normally only include one per Detachment). 

Cadre Fireblade

If you’re looking to make the most of the devastating firepower of your Fire Warriors, you simply can’t leave your sept world without a Cadre Fireblade to support them. Not only is he a dead-eye marksman, but he grants an extra shot to nearby Fire Warrior units. Of course, this also applies to their Overwatch fire too, meaning that to charge any of them is to face a murderous volley from every unit in the vicinity!

KV128 Stormsurge

The undisputed master of area-denial in the T’au Empire army. Position a Stormsurge to lock down a fire corridor between obscuring terrain, set its Stabilising Anchors, and it will reliably obliterate anything in front of it. Its presence alone is often enough to force your opponent’s hand to avoid suffering the explosive consequences of leaving a Stormsurge free to do its work, meaning you can use it as (massive) bait to set up deadly counter-attacks with your other units.

How are you planning to serve the Greater Good in the new edition? Let us know on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook pageInstagram and on Twitter using #New40K.

Which isn’t to say the Imperium’s methods are especially reliable, but they can actually get from A to B sometimes. The T’au Empire are only just starting to access the wider galaxy.
** This update will be available to T’au Empire players on launch day via an FAQ download. 

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

32 Responses to “Faction Focus: T’au Empire”

  1. Ytook June 25, 2020 8:43 am #



    • Reecius June 25, 2020 9:13 am #

      His schemes have failed!!! lol =P

  2. NinetyNineNo June 25, 2020 8:59 am #

    Tau still are kings of Overwatch, but can’t fly away from combat and shoot anymore. Net nerf?

    • Reecius June 25, 2020 9:24 am #

      The change to the Fly keyword is a much bigger change to the game by a large margin. It has a big impact on leveling the playing field between those with and those without it.

      • Brakhal June 25, 2020 9:41 am #

        Was this that really big change that was coming?

        Flying units making fallback was a big pain in the ass.

        • Reecius June 25, 2020 10:28 am #

          Nope. Well, one of the bigger changes but we have another one that is very impactful because it changes things for every army. It will be revealed soon I bet.

      • Drythelm June 25, 2020 9:56 am #

        This is probably for the best, and now primaris vehicles aren’t always the clear choice over the rhino chasis counterparts. My Tyranids and Sisters won’t care much about this, but I’m quite sad about my Custodes jetbikes. I don’t think they can fire while in combat, since they’re bikers, not vehicles, but they’re still quite good at smashing. I guess I’ll just have to use something else to deal with shooting down light infantry.

        • Reecius June 25, 2020 10:30 am #

          Yeah, it will be a bummer for a lot of armies used to how Fly worked but as you noted, it was one of the most powerful keywords in the game previously and many of the only vehicles you saw were those with Fly. Characters too that could almost always did fly. This levels the playing field a lot and the fact that you can shoot in combat for many of these things hit by this means it isn’t as bad as it at first appears.

    • MidnightSun June 25, 2020 10:31 am #

      Man, Tau players are just *determined* to be upset

      • Matt June 25, 2020 11:35 am #

        You’d be salty too if you bought into a high-mobility army like DE, and then in one or two edition changes GDubs says “LOL, your army plays like overpriced Guard now”

        • Reecius June 25, 2020 11:52 am #

          Well, hang tight on that. There’s still lot to see and learn. And Fly is still way better than not having Fly. Just play a few games before passing judgement.

          • Matt June 25, 2020 12:09 pm

            A lot of the common complaints and issues people have with Tau at the end of 8th, I called at the very beginning when that edition dropped (e.g. JSJ, terrible drone rules). I’ve literally spent all 8th edition saying “I told you so”.

            Sorry Reece, I didn’t trust your optimism at the start of that edition, and I’m not trusting it at the start of this one either.

          • Vipoid June 26, 2020 4:48 am

            Given that one of DE’s only benefits (being able to move their vehicles and still shoot without penalty), has already been handed to every other race for free, you’ll forgive me if I’m not optimistic.

            What is even the point of DE in 9th edition?

            “Well obviously they’re the race of -er- being fast!”

            “You mean apart from the entire HQ section, the entire Elite section, and the entire Troop section, all of which have 0 fast units?”

            “Well yeah, but apart from those . . .”

            “So like our transports then?”


            “The transports that don’t have enough room to carry full squads and HQs, and which are no faster than Eldar heavy tanks? Or even flying SM vehicles?”

            “Er . . . well what I actually meant was that DE are the Poison faction!”

            “So why do our Poisoned weapons suck so badly? Especially compared to those of other races like “Tyranids, GSCs ets.?”

            “Oh, -er- did I say DE were the Poison faction? Actually, I meant they were the faction of . . . um . . . er . . . how about I direct you to our PR department?”

          • abusepuppy June 26, 2020 5:50 am

            The codex will presumably be redone for 9th eventually, but there are some advantages for them. Since their guns are assault, they can of course advance, but also shooting into combat at no penalty- it’s not as good as withdrawing, but it’s still something.

            More importantly, though, the changes to obscuring terrain are a HUGE benefit for Drukhari vehicles, because before it was all but impossible to hide them due to their size and awkward proportions, whereas now it will be much easier to. High speed + fly keyword also means they can pop out from behind terrain in a way that most other factions cannot, letting them leverage that ability to hide into alpha strikes.

      • NinetyNineNo June 26, 2020 6:33 am #

        I’ve seen a lot more salt from Tau haters than Tau players lol. I’m just trying to have a discussion on the game here. No need to be a prick.

  3. Shas’O June 25, 2020 9:22 am #

    Hopefully they get wargear options that let them fall back and shoot. Vectored retro thrusters of old! Otherwise it’s going to be very hard to play Tau. Have to wait and see!

  4. Yeeman June 25, 2020 10:05 am #

    This Fly Keyword nerf knocks Drukhari out hardcore. Everything we have is Fly. We depended on the ability to get out of CC and use our mobility to FLy away and shoot.
    Hopefully DE will get something that helps them because so far, they have been severely hampered with the new rules that have come out. What has made them special (Movement, Fly, Heavy Weapons on vehicles) has been taken away.

    • Reecius June 25, 2020 10:31 am #

      It is a bit of a blow for sure, but remember, you can shoot in combat. That helps a bit.

      • Yeeman June 25, 2020 1:26 pm #

        Reece, I can’t fault you for always trying to find a silver-lining. But c’mon man…. When do Raiders, Venoms, and Ravagers live in CC long enough to shoot?
        I’ll hold out that DE get something that will let them be unique. But, I’m running out of breath!

    • abusepuppy June 25, 2020 7:05 pm #

      Drukhari are also one of the few factions that have a strat to fall back and act normally, which you can use when needed. It hurts, obviously, but it hurts a lot of factions and I don’t think Drukhari are at the top.

  5. red3_standingby June 25, 2020 10:31 am #

    All I can say is that I really hope they do something equivalent for Mordian Guard. All the talk about balancing Tau and overwatch overlooks that there are other armies specialized in it. I’m worried this is going to be another edition of pretending to be well dressed Cadians.

  6. Venkarel June 25, 2020 10:47 am #

    I wonder if GW will adjust unit costs to reflect the change.

  7. Yarium June 25, 2020 10:48 am #

    So does this mean that Aircraft can’t shoot the turn after you charge them? They *have* to fall back, or otherwise they die. Hoping that this is the case and start forcing Aircraft to be strafing the battlefield rather than diving in. Unless, that is, you’re an ORK!

    • Reecius June 25, 2020 10:51 am #

      Didn’t they already cover aircraft in an article? I can’t recall but I would assume if I were you that they have an additional rule or ability that lets them function.

      • Yarium June 25, 2020 11:38 am #

        Ah, I see it now. “The can make a normal move or Advance even if in Engagement Range”. So they don’t Fall Back to leave combat, thus can still fire!

  8. Matt June 25, 2020 11:32 am #

    Sooo… basically Tau get to keep overwatch as a mechanic while everyone else has to pay CPs to use it. Kinda was the only way to make that work.

    There’s a lot of claims about mobility increasing, despite the fact that everything presented so far supports the opposite case. Losing Fly _slows_ the army, it doesn’t make it faster. With vehicles and monsters being able to shoot in combat, this also removes an incentive to move since you can just keep shooting. And Tau are not “faster than ever” Whoever wrote that is lying or never played Tau with JSJ. Tau are the slowest and most boring they’ve ever been.

    • Yarium June 25, 2020 11:48 am #

      Strongly disagree. The main reason that mobility will be more important than ever lies with the new Cover rules and vehicles/monsters being able to move and shoot with no penalty. Chances are, if you stay put, you’re either shooting into combat (and most vehicles weapons are Heavy, so mostly at -1 to hit), or will be shooting through either Dense Cover, or won’t have LoS through the new cover rules. This means you’ll be incentived to move, doing so to have a much better shot at possibly full ballistic skill, but in a different location from before.

      And don’t forget that with ongoing reserves being a thing, you’ll be scared to stick near the board edges, but also have a smaller board center than before with the new table size!

      So yes, I can see movement being more important than ever, and units with Fly still can go over things rather than around them which is a big boost for such vehicles/monsters.

      • Matt June 25, 2020 12:02 pm #

        Reserve changes is a good point, that certainly offers more mobility options. Although Tau I think will find it used against them more often than used by them.

        I really don’t think the changes to cover is going to create that incentive to move. It sounds so easy to claim cover now, that having a unit move 6-8″ is unlikely to result in giving the unit an unobstructed or unpenalized view.

        Plus, -1 to hit modifiers are so prevalent in the meta, that if you’re facing some armies there’s no point in worrying about Dense Cover because they’ll still get the -1 to hit anyway.

        Plus, FtGG always dis-incentivizes moving at max speed to maintain spacing with slower units in the army.

  9. assistantref June 25, 2020 12:25 pm #

    FLY keyword nerf hurts a lot of stuff (CWE, DE) worse than it hurts T’au. The stuff T’au wants to shoot with will either be able to still shoot (riptides) or you won’t ever be able to get into combat with it to begin with, because of the drone screens. The nerf to multi-charge means there is now no way to effectively charge a T’au castle in 9th – in 8th you could use a unit that can’t be overwatched that can fight twice, but that no longer works because you auto-fail your charge if you declare on the stuff behind the screen, but if you don’t, you can’t fight it.

    Really hoping this “big change” Reece is talking about comes up trumps because right now T’au look like they’re going to be even more non-interactive than they were in 8th, and that’s not good for anybody.

    • Kurt June 25, 2020 1:38 pm #

      If it’s like 8th Stompa predictions we’re gonna have a good joke about this one too

  10. marandamir June 26, 2020 8:52 am #

    Any change they errata the night lord faction rule like they did the greater good rule? They nerfed overwatched and had to fix greater good and they are nerfing morale to crap and night lords need an update as well to their legion trait.

  11. yeet stick July 25, 2020 3:07 pm #

    did tau get any new models?

    and do you consider tau good in 9th edition
    (1-10) rate

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